%date% | Food & Water Watch - Part 14
Victory! Cleveland passes resolution against antibiotic misuse on factory farms. more wins »
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March 21st, 2014

Corporate Patronage at UCLA

stack of one hundred dollar billsBy Tim Schwab

The University of California school system, as of late, has been no foe to big business, taking millions of dollars from corporations to conduct industry research. So it wasn’t a huge shocker to learn that UC Los Angeles’ law school took $4 million from Big Ag to create the Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy. By Resnick, I mean Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the Beverly Hills billionaire water barons.

Stewart Resnick could be considered one of the nation’s largest corporate farmers and campaign donors, sitting atop a fruit, flower and nut empire that calls itself the “largest farming operation of tree crops in the world.” In addition to being the largest grower and processor of almonds and pistachios in the world, Resnick’s operations also have enormous citrus and pomegranate holdings, the latter of which drives one of his signature products, POM Wonderful brand juice.

Resnick’s farming operation covers 120,000 acres of land in California’s agriculturally rich – but water poor – Central Valley. While other farmers in the region often pray for rain, the Resnicks have played politics to control tens of millions of dollars in available water sources.

With this immense wealth, why do the Resnicks need UCLA on their side? From this UCLA press release, the Resnicks appear to be buying influence: “Through the publication and dissemination of policy briefs and position papers, the program will play a crucial role in shaping policy-making process.”

Our academic institutions – and especially our public schools like UCLA – play a critical role in providing the science and research used to shape policy making. What our food system looks like, to some great extent, is determined by what the experts from our public universities prescribe. And what they prescribe is increasingly a pro-industry stance, derived from the kind of corporate funding like the Resnicks recently provided.

Corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars funding universities, paying for research, endowing professorships, naming buildings and engaging professors in lucrative consulting gigs. This largess buys friendly scientific reviews of corporate products and practices, which are used to secure favorable regulations from legislators. Favorable research from our public institutions also serves as a kind of stamp of approval that companies can peddle to their customers.

And the Resnicks clearly understand how this game works and use their financial largess to curry favor with public institutions and nonprofit groups that can help their companies. For example, the Resnicks acquired FIJI water in 2004, shipping water from the poor island nation all the way around the world to rich consumers in the West, growing FIJI into the most imported water to the United States. (If you don’t already know why bottled water is bad, read this.) In the face of controversy over this business scheme, Conservation International issued a press release talking about how great FIJI water is for the environment. No surprise, Stewart Resnick sits on the organization’s board.

This level of influence, earned through “philanthropy,” allows the Resnicks – and the Monsantos and Cargills and Tysons – to manipulate and confuse the public discourse to benefit their bottom line. At UCLA, the Resnicks most recent $4 million food policy program only adds to their influence, which also includes a seat on the executive board of UCLA Medical Sciences, the advisory board of the UCLA Anderson School of Management and the advisory board of the Lowell Milken Institute at the law school.

In our 2012 report Public Research, Private Gain, Food & Water Watch lays out the myriad ways that conflicts of interest spring from these industry partnerships and offers a few solutions. This influx of corporate money to our universities is not about philanthropy. It’s about the bottom line.

Field Notes from the Campaign to Label GMOs: Marching Forward

On March 19, 2014, Food & Water Watch and its allies delivered a 2,500-signature petition to New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney to urge him to support GMO labeling legislation. From Left to Right: Katie McCarthy, Jim Wilday, Stephanie Rossi, Jennifer Kolarsick, Steph Compton and Nicole Souza.

By Anna Ghosh

Food & Water Watch has been fighting – and winning – campaigns to defend consumers’ right to know what’s in their food since its inception in 2005. As a result of our campaign, Starbucks committed to make its stores rBGH-free in 2007, and in 2008, we successfully fought in nine states to keep rBGH-Free labels on dairy products. In 2009 we won a campaign to get the federal school lunch program to specifically allow schools to use federal dollars to choose rBGH-Free milk for their students.

Since 2010, we’ve collected more than 150,000 signatures opposing the FDA’s approval on AquaBounty’s GE salmon, and in 2011 and 2012, along with our allies Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Sum of Us, Corporate Accountability International and CREDO Action, we collected more than half a million signatures from consumers refusing to purchase genetically engineered (GMO) sweet corn and asking Walmart not to sell the biotech corn. We’ve also been involved in collecting and submitting official comments to oppose dozens of new GMO crops that have been considered since we started in 2005.

Over the past few years, our focus has been on the fight to label GMOs. Despite the narrow defeats of Prop 37 in California in 2012 and I-522 in Washington last year, momentum around GMO labels has never been stronger. Food & Water Watch is on the ground in over 12 states, joining with national, regional, and local allies to make GMO food labels the law once and for all. Here are the latest updates from our field team: Read the full article…

Grassroots v. Gasroots

By Mark Schlosberg Join the Movement to Ban Fracking

The movement against fracking is growing more powerful by the day. And in communities and states across the country – from Colorado to New York, Pennsylvania to California – grassroots activism and organizing is leading to real change. So it doesn’t surprise us that Big Oil and Gas corporations are engaging in their own special brand of “grassroots” organizing. We’re calling it “gasroots” organizing. Read the full article…

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Five Ways You Can Make a Splash On World Water Day

By Katherine Cirullo

Water is life. Water is also a limited resource that’s under high demand. Here at Food & Water Watch, we’re fighting a global battle to protect the right to safe, clean, affordable water for everyone now, and for years to come. It’s a battle that we care deeply about and it pervades many of the issues we work on. That’s why tomorrow, on World Water Day, we’re inviting you to dive in and join us in the fight to promote sustainable water management, protect the human right to water and prevent the impending global water crisis. Here are five ways you can take action on World Water Day.

1. Add these two inspirational gems to your spring reading list: Blue Future and Ogallala Road. These profound, yet comprehensive books offer unique perspectives on the past and future of the water crisis:

Blue Future: Protecting Water For People and the Planet Forever by internationally best-selling author and Food & Water Watch Board Chair, Maude Barlow, exposes the handful of corporate players whose greed is impeding the human right to water. The latest in Barlow’s best-selling series, Blue Future lays out the obstacles ahead in this looming water crisis, as well as the many victories that have been won by communities in the fight to protect their right to water.

Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning by Julene Bair is a powerful personal history of her family’s western Kansas farm located on the Ogallala Aquifer. In the narrative, Bair reveals the struggles she grappled with when watching her family switch from dry-land farming to unsustainable irrigation. The story is a telling glimpse into one aspect of the world’s water saga. Visit her website for book events and appearances.

2. Encourage your classmates to kick the bottled water habit and to take back the tap! Be the force of change on your college campus by joining this year’s Tap-A-Palooza contest: Read the full article…

How to Disappoint 1.9 Million Citizens in a Few Minutes

By David Sánchez

For one moment, imagine that you are the Vice President of the European Commission. Citizens all around Europe have collected signatures demanding you to recognize the Human Right to Water and Sanitation in the European Union. This first ever European Citizen’s Initiative to be successful gained support from 1.9 million people. You had three months to discuss with your colleagues what to do about it. You start the press conference, smile to the cameras and speak for a few minutes. You announce that you say yes to the petition but you are aware that you are offering nothing. Finally, you leave the room.

Now imagine that the multinational company that manages water in your city cut off your water supply because you can’t afford to pay the bills. Or imagine that your municipal water supply is about to be privatized. Or maybe you were even involved in the signature collection and invested a lot of your time and efforts on it.

How would you feel in each situation? March 22nd is World Water Day, a good moment to reflect about the huge gap created this week between the announcement of the European Commission and the expectancies of 1.9 million European citizens on the right to water.

But, what is a European Citizen’s Initiative?

The European Citizen’s Initiative is a new democratic tool that tries to allow EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies by calling on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal. You “just” need to collect one million signatures coming from at least 7 member states, following a really complicated set of rules and procedures.

And the Right to Water Initiative did it. Nearly 1.9 million signatures were collected with three basic demands: the legal requirement by EU institutions and Member States to ensure that all inhabitants enjoy the right to water and sanitation, a commitment that water supply and management will not be privatized and a commitment to increase EU efforts to achieve universal access to water and sanitation. These were three clear demands that had nearly no echo in the Commission’s answer.

The European Commission acknowledged the importance of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation and confirmed water as a public good. Which is good, but just words. They didn’t propose any legislation to recognize this right, just a compilation of already ongoing actions plus the announcement of a public consultation on the drinking water directive whose outcomes will not be binding. On the positive side, they committed to promote universal access to water and sanitation in its development policies, including the promotion of public-public partnerships. And that’s a step in the right direction.

But citizens had asked to exclude water and sanitation from what they call “internal market rules,” that is, privatization and liberalization. And the Commission did nothing. Water was excluded temporally, due to strong public opposition, from the last internal market legislation. But the Commission didn’t explicitly exclude these services from the ongoing trade negotiations, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP or TAFTA) with the U.S. or the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada.

The European Water Movement, of which Food & Water Europe is part, stated it quite clearly: this decision implies a bad precedent for this new mechanism of public participation.

Water privatization is still a very concrete menace in many European countries, with the European Commission itself one of the main drivers. As part of the Troika (the tripartite committee composed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), they are pushing for water privatization in Greece and Portugal, while evidence from public auditing bodies confirms that privatization is detrimental both for local authorities and ordinary citizens. And the reality on the ground shows that when families can’t afford to pay their bills, they are being deprived of access to water by private companies, as happened recently in Jerez, Spain.

Citizens are mobilizing across Europe. Millions of Italians voted against water privatization and local referendums took place in major cities like Madrid and Berlin. Right now citizens of Alcazar de San Juan, Spain, are voting on a popular referendum about the privatization of their water supply. Thessaloniki, in Greece, will vote on May 18. And other cities, like Puerto de Santa Maria, also in Spain, are now mobilized for the same reasons.

Water should be a commons, not a commodity. We must close the gap between citizen’s expectations and EU decisions. We need to keep reminding our politicians of the importance of the right to water before the elections for the European Parliament. And we need to keep it in mind also in the World Water Day.

March 20th, 2014

USDA: Start Telling the Truth About Inspector Shortages

By Tony Corbo

Tony Corbo, Senior Food Lobbyist

Yesterday afternoon, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a blog written Aaron Lavallee in the public affairs office, who challenged assertions made by Food & Water Watch (that were subsequently printed in the New York Times last month) that inspector shortages were leading to problems for the agency’s inspection program.

On February 10, Food & Water Watch sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack expressing concerns that inspector shortages were causing severe strains on the inspection program, pointing out that these shortages seemed to be related to the policy that FSIS adopted in 2012 to hire “temporary Inspectors” instead of permanent inspectors in anticipation of implementing a privatized poultry inspection system that would lead to the elimination of 800 permanent inspector positions. The temporary inspector hiring program has been less than successful as the agency has not been able to attract enough applicants to take the jobs. So, with open permanent inspector positions remaining vacant and no temporary inspectors to fill them, inspector shortages have developed all across the country.

Read the full article…

March 14th, 2014

Three Big Holes in New GMO Report, and a Bigger Question

By Eve Mitchell

Today’s report trumpeting the need to force more food with GMO’s into the UK is as flawed as it is predictable. Here’s my handy guide to spotting the problems:

1. GM* researchers want more GM
Now there’s a surprise. GM cheerleaders in the front line today are Jonathan Jones (whose lab receives millions from the biotech industry), David Baulcombe (a “consultant for Syngenta”), Jim Dunwell (a founder of GM lobby group CropGen who claimed on the radio this morning to have “no stake” in the technology), and a handful of others dependent on the GM bandwagon for their livelihood, many of whom hold (or are part of outfits that own) patents on GM technologies. Shouldn’t those advising the Government be a bit more independent, or at least a little more distant from the profits? Read the full article…

March 13th, 2014

The Bluegrass Pipeline: A Bad Deal From Beginning to End

By Alison Auciello

With the rise in fracking for shale gas, so too comes a rise in pipelines and other infrastructure used to get the product to market. One such pipeline, the Bluegrass Pipeline, is proposed to cut a swath through 15 counties in my home state of Ohio, and it’s a bad deal. 

The pipeline would carry natural gas liquids (NGLs), a variable and hazardous mix of ethane, propane, butane and more, as opposed to the natural gas, which is composed mostly of methane, and used to heat homes. All of it comes from fracking, and it’s clear that the plan is to drill and frack much of the state, only to ship the product to the highest bidder overseas. Proposed to originate in the northeastern United States the pipeline would run through Ohio and Kentucky, where it would then connect with an existing pipeline that goes all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, targeting export and petrochemical markets.

The project, a joint venture of Williams Company and Boardwalk, is also hinging on three facilities proposed for construction at the end point – a storage facility, a plant to separate all the different NGLs and an export facility.  
  Read the full article…

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March 12th, 2014

Why I Came to Work for Food & Water Europe

 

Welcome David!

There is a battle brewing over who owns water. Stay informed about what Food & Water Europe is doing to keep our water safe, affordable and sustainable.

By David Sánchez

Hi there! My name is David Sánchez and I am the new campaign officer at Food & Water Europe here in Brussels. I have already been around for one month, so I guess it is time for me to introduce myself.

My main task will be to work, together with local grassroots movements, for safe, accessible, sustainable public water in the EU. I will also be looking at sustainable food and one of the main threats we are facing, the negotiations for a new EU-US free trade agreement (known as TTIP or TAFTA).

And what is a Spanish guy like me doing in Brussels, “the heart of the beast”? That’s what I wonder when I cycle under the rain (that is, quite often) on my way to the office. I have been interested in nature since I was a kid, so I decided to study environmental sciences at Madrid University. That was at the time when the debate around GMOs was in turmoil, and names like Monsanto where all over the place. Companies patenting life, and releasing risky genetically modified organisms in the environment and our food really led me to environmental activism. After that, I got a Masters degree in Ecology in a Portuguese university, researching the impacts of pollutants like glyphosate (Monsanto again!) on freshwater ecosystems, and then I spent some years working on environmental education.

Then I found myself with the amazing opportunity to coordinate national food and farming campaigns at an environmental NGO. I spent several years campaigning against agrofuels, factory farming and GMOs in Spain, the only country in the EU that grows them on a large scale, working side by side with farmers and consumers against corporate power and for food sovereignty.

Suddenly one day you wake up and, without even noticing it, you are cycling under the rain in Brussels, and you can feel all around you the power and the influence of the army of lobbyist working for transnational companies. Under many different names, you can watch Monsanto, Syngenta, Suez or Veolia maneuvering to increase their profits, while taking away public control over our food and water systems.

One of the main reasons I love Food & Water Europe is because we try to link the grassroots with the EU level. When you are campaigning on the ground, pushing to declare your town as a GM-free area or trying to stop the privatization of your municipal water supply, it is not that easy to connect your struggle with those lobbyists that meet in Brussels. But most of the environmental and consumer protection legislation in Europe is nowadays decided or promoted here.

People fighting in the streets of Spain, Greece or France against water privatization must have their voice heard in Brussels. And shaping EU legislation will help developing the public, democratic and participatory models we want to build.

But don’t leave us alone here under the rain! We need you to connect the dots between the daily local fights and the heart of the beast. I am sure that together we can push for a change in the way water and food are managed in Europe (and globally).

You can contact me at dsanchez(at)fweurope(dot)org. Sign up to stay informed about the work of Food & Water Europe.

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The Weakest Link: Problems and Perils of Linking Carbon Markets

pollution tradingBy Elizabeth Nussbaumer

Using carbon markets to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is nothing new and hardly effective. However, despite the absence of significant emissions reductions from cap-and-trade initiatives and the all-but-complete collapse of the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), supporters of carbon markets now want to begin linking markets together.

This idea is backed by claims that doing so will increase economic efficiency and allow emissions reductions to happen at a lower cost, but combining many broken pieces does not make an effective whole. In reality, linking provides a way to allow pollution at the lowest cost to polluters.

In January, California and Quebec officially linked their carbon markets. The reasoning behind linking argues that it will allow polluters to purchase emissions reductions credits at the lowest price ­­­— if credits cost less in Quebec, polluters in California can purchase credits on Quebec’s market, ultimately making polluting more affordable. Read the full article…

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